LYOTA YAGI, Animated Clock, 2013, reversed mobile clocks with diaporama slits and mirror, various dimensions. Courtesy Platform China, Hong Kong.

TAKEHIRO IIKAWA, Decoratorcrab – Near The Weed 4 on Port Island, 2012, digital photographic print, 64 × 84 cm. Courtesy Platform China, Hong Kong.

TAKEHIRO IIKAWA, Half Time (Football), 2013, 45 min 50 sec. Courtesy Platform China, Hong Kong.

LYOTA YAGI, Circuit, 2008–13, records, record player, small car with needle, various dimensions. Courtesy Platform China, Hong Kong. 

“Once Was Now, Now is Over, Yet Will Come”

Takehiro Iikawa & Lyota Yagi

Platform China
Hong Kong Japan

This year, Platform China put on a series of shows in Beijing and Hong Kong inviting artists and audiences to pick apart the relationship between time and space under the title “A Thriving Morphology.” For their part, Japanese artists Takehiro Iikawa and Lyota Yagi were offered the gallery’s Hong Kong space, in the eastern industrial district of Chai Wan. But despite the generous accommodations, the pair’s heady concepts were not given much room, either conceptually or physically.

That is not to say that their hypothesis wasn’t intriguing. Each work comprised a threefold experience—from idea, to experiment, to presentation. The artists displayed a dogged commitment to expressing Walter Benjamin’s notion of “homogenous, empty time”— many of the works required more than a pregnant pause, while others were made of perishable mediums. To understand the artists’ model of time, the exchange of your time was key.

For Iikawa, embodied experience is central to the perception of time and he uses the natural world as its measure. His “Decoratorcrab” (2012) digital prints depict innocuous subjects, such as weeds shooting through tarmac or a park bench shot at three angles, demonstrating how what sits on the outskirts of our observation is inherently tied to time’s passing. His video The Clock for Practice of Time – Bench (2008) takes this notion even further. The video fixes on a bench for 24 hours hinting that banal happenings—a breeze, changes in light and people coming in and out of frame—might serve as intervals, like the numbers on a clock. Similar to “Decoratorcrab” series, The Clock compares two options for measuring time, organic and mechanized, but proves more effective than the still photography of the prints.

Iikawa’s videos, Halftime (Football) and Halftime (Boxing) (both 2013) document an experiment where the artist approached semi-professional sports groups and instructed them to play their sport in half the usual time, the assumption being that people who operate repeatedly in the same time format would have it “absorbed physically” as Iikawa says. Indeed, in Halftime (Football), one member of the team is unaware of the experiment and remains oblivious to the shortened time throughout the game’s duration.

Yagi is more attuned to the way that time is conveyed through physical materials and sensuous presence, both of which can expose time’s rhythms and elasticity. Along these lines Soundsphere (2011) is a ball wrapped in the tape from an audiocassette resting on a recorder attached to headphones. As the ball spins you can listen to the garbled sounds. In Circuit (2008–13), Yagi has snapped old records bought in Hong Kong into halves and then rejoined them to create a vinyl “road.” A toy car with a record needle attached follows the path and creates discordant sound along the way. Here, time has a sound, a direction and a physical face.

For Yagi, time’s deconstruction relies on juxtaposing its systems of measurement. In Common Difference (2009) he films a metronome against the tides of a shoreline and in Lento Presto (2008) he captures a corridor of students moving about in a similar tidal formation. In neither case has time changed, but our reception of it is distorted.

While the works on view successfully challenged one’s temporal instincts, and presented an interesting dialogue when placed in tandem with one another, the multiple interventions—in videos, photos, floor installations and interactive works—packed into the space could be overwhelming. Perhaps one of the exhibition’s faults was that it took too much time to decipher—this is a luxury not everyone can afford.

Once Was Now, Now is Over, Yet Will Come was on view at Platform China, Hong Kong, from October 31 through November 23, 2013.